When you moved into your current apartment (from a few floors away in the same building), was a garden immediately part of your vision for the backyard? Who did you look to for guidance as you planned your own green space?
The garden was basically the only reason why I wanted the apartment. My friend Celeste, who lived there for over nine years before I took it over, did a tremendous amount of work to the space. She lined the perimeter of the yard with rose bushes, pothos ferns, a fig tree. She built three giant raised beds and lined a deep patio with brick. She planted perennials that I enjoy every single spring without lifting a finger—fluffy tulips, daffodils, hyacinth.
It’s my dream city backyard space and I’m so, so lucky to live here. Mostly, I try to do her original vision justice by filling the space with friends in the evenings, cooking meals big and small, bringing a book or my computer outside to work.
Just being here physically has been such a transformative experience. Even if I didn’t have the garden, this yard would have changed my life. To be clear—the garden is not some immaculate utopia. There’s a rotting, leaning shed, a pile of yard compost I cannot seem to keep at bay — an aura of dinginess and chaos. Sometimes I feel a little down when I see other people’s lush, perfectly manicured yards and gardens — it’s so easy to compare yourself to others and feel like you’re worse off, especially if you’re having a challenging season, as I’m experiencing now.
I moved downstairs in December of 2020, after six months of spending most of my time at home in my tiny studio. I had never been confronted with so much alone time in all my years living in NYC, and once I stopped working in restaurants I started feeling, for the first time in my adult life, that I had time to pursue other interests.
I had never really had “hobbies” before — part of what is so dizzying and problematic about the restaurant industry is how all-consuming it is, how it selfishly asks for all of you. No one has hobbies (not to mention the struggle to maintain personal relationships) because you’re expected to be madly, passionately dedicated to your work. You pride yourself on your myopic, one-dimensional lifestyle. You really think you are lucky to be subsumed, willingly, into work. But what if you lose your job? All of a sudden it became: Oh I can cook for myself now? Read books for fun? Go on walks? Adopt a cat? Learning how to garden was part of a deliberate decision to cultivate a new skill — a reprieve from work, from the stressors of thinking about money, or the pressures of being “good” at something.
It felt really overwhelming to start. I didn’t know where to begin. Advice from friends was absolutely essential—not just in sharing tips and strategies, but also the gift of so many seeds and starts to get me going. Growing those plants honors those relationships. Every harvest is a reminder of that person in my life.